A whopping 1.24 million fires were reported in the United States in 2013. Of those fires, 487,500 involved structures.
Undoubtedly, many of those fires involved homes that had pets. Pets may not be able to escape a burning home — they could be too afraid to come out, overcome by smoke inhalation or simply trapped behind the blaze. That is where a good fire escape plan comes in.
We should have a plan in place in case of an emergency so that we are able to get ourselves, our families and our pets out as quickly and safely as possible.
During a fire, you will become disoriented and afraid. This is normal and natural — and will be only more so for your pets, who cannot think things through in a logical manner.
For example, you know that 2 steps to the left there is a window and an escape from the blaze — but your pet cannot reason that out, especially in the grips of fear.
Here are 4 steps to follow:
1. Think Like Your Pet
The first step in creating an effective fire escape plan for your pets is to think about, and explore, your home.
Where are the places you usually find your pet? For example, do you have a cat who always seems to hide behind the couch, or a ferret who loves a certain corner?
In a dangerous situation, your pet may flee to the place he feels most comfortable. You need to find all the possible hiding places your pet could use. Be thorough; your pet can fit into areas you might never have thought possible.
If your pet is not caged or crated, know where he hides. In an emergency, you will need to move fast to get your pet and yourself out to safety.
2. Get Window Decals
The second step is to find or buy “Pet Rescue Stickers.” These decals are applied to the front window of your home and clearly show firefighters and rescue workers what type of pets you have and how many there are
Check with your local fire department to see if they have a supply of these decals handy. The ASPCA also offers a free pet safety pack.
Once you have this decal applied to the front window, remember to keep it updated. If you get yourself and your pets out during a fire, let rescue workers know that you are all safely out so they do not waste time looking for them.
3. Keep Supplies Accessible
Know what equipment you might need and how to lay your hands on it quickly. Dogs will need leashes, cats will need carriers, ferrets will need their cages and so on.
How quickly can you get the equipment you need to evacuate in an emergency? If your answer is, “I haven’t seen that carrier in months,” you may want to consider digging it out.
In a fire, you will need to remove your pets in a hurry. You will not have time to search for leashes, carriers or cages. In addition, the house might be full of smoke, which hinders vision and causes disorientation. Being able to find what you need quickly can be the difference between life and death.
Walk around your home and imagine scenarios in which a fire breaks out in different parts of the home. Ask yourself what you will do if you have a fire in the kitchen.
You know that the exits there are now cut off, and depending on how long the fire has burned you may have lost access to adjoining rooms as well.
- How will you navigate these areas to get yourself and your pets to safety?
- What if there is a fire on the second floor of your home?
- Do you have a ladder that you can use to get to safety on the lower level or ground?
Try to put yourself in different areas of the home to see what exits and access you might have during a situation where speed is critical.
Practice finding your pet, scooping him up and racing outside. Dogs will probably think it’s great fun and may even be able to be trained to go to a certain spot outdoors as part of the process.
Cats and other pets will probably not think it is fun, but there are 2 advantages to this:
- Your pet will get used to the motions of you racing outdoors.
- Also, you will become more familiar with the scoop ‘n’ run, allowing you to do so easier in a situation where there may be smoke or flames hindering your way.
A good fire escape plan can be a lifesaver. Fires happen every day — remember, there were more than a million in 2013 alone — but when you are prepared, you increase the likelihood that you and your pets can escape with your lives.
So seek out your pets’ hiding spots, keep the equipment handy, apply those pet stickers to your windows, and practice, practice, practice!
This pet health content was reviewed for accuracy by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed and updated Dec. 17, 2018.